Excellent A-Hed in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal:
To the FDA, This Indonesian Smoke Is Close but No Cigar
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar — unless the Food and Drug Administration and a congressional committee think it might be a cigarette.
The cigar (or cigarette) in question is called a kretek. Kreteks are cigarettes that blend tobacco and cloves. Billions are smoked in Indonesia, wreathing that country in the scent of studded oranges. A few weeks ago, though, clove cigarettes were banned in the U.S. on the grounds that their fragrance is a come-on to children.
It was the FDA’s first act under a law giving it the power to police tobacco. But as soon the clove-cigarette edict went out, a California kretek importer brought in a new line of clove cigars.
Not surprisingly, the clove cigar looks very much like a clove cigarette in sheep’s clothing. Regardless, the Kretekniks (read: highly paid lobbyists) sprang into action and are now on the FDA like Brown on Williamson. We’ll see how that works out.
Interestingly, the FDA ban on flavored smokes exempts menthol cigarettes, 90 billion of which Americans enjoy every year. As the Journal explains:
[A] menthol ban, congressional aides and tobacco activists say now, would have ignited a huge bootlegging crisis.
That’s just one example of the tobacco-industrial complex at work. On a macro level, Phillip Morris has totally lavaliered the FDA in the hope that strict regulation will freeze the cigarette market - with PM as eternal industry leader.
We should all be so lucky. And so rich.
(Campaign Outsider official Teachable Moment™: The Duchess de La Valliere, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, was a French noblewoman and the lover of Louis XIV. She had four children with him.)